MONTREAL, QUE – In case there was ever any doubt, the bitter two-decade rivalry between Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11W-10L-8D) and Montreal Impact (13W-9L-6D) is alive and well.
With the odds stacked against them, Whitecaps FC bolstered their playoff standing with a massive 3-0 road victory over the Impact in a spirited afternoon affair Saturday at Stade Saputo.
In a match that saw just about everything, including a penalty and no less than four crossbars, Kenny Miller’s seventh-minute tally carried Vancouver to their 11th win of the season – matching the club’s highest total in Major League Soccer.
It was a much-needed result for Whitecaps FC, who will finish the night no more than four points out of a playoff spot with five matches remaining.
Since joining MLS in 2011, the ‘Caps are now unbeaten in five straight matches against Montreal in all competitions – including a pair of draws in the 2013 Amway Canadian Championship and a win in their only previous MLS meeting.
Martin Rennie made two changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s scoreless draw with San Jose Earthquakes and just a single switch from the squad that closed out the match.
After coming on as a substitute a week ago, captain Jay DeMerit returned to the starting lineup Saturday for the first time since Vancouver’s season opener. He and centre back partner Carlyle Mitchell had another strong outing. They've now gone nearly 150 minutes without allowing a goal when playing together.
Striker Tommy Heinemann, who replaced Camilo in Whitecaps FC’s attack, also earned his first start in just over five months.
Saturday’s affair got underway just after 2 p.m. local time (11 a.m. PT), but the early kickoff didn’t seem to have any adverse effect on the visiting ‘Caps.
In fact, it was a dream start for Whitecaps FC, who opened the scoring from the penalty spot just seven minutes in.
The play began just moments earlier, as Budweiser Man of the Match Nigel Reo-Coker blew by defender Alessandro Nesta down the right flank before finding fellow Englishman Matt Watson unmarked in the Impact area.
The ‘Caps were awarded a penalty after Watson’s first-time effort struck Hassoun Camara’s dangling left arm. As a result, Miller stepped to the spot with conviction and drilled home his eighth goal of the season to give Vancouver an early 1-0 lead.
The Scotsman’s seventh-minute tally seemed to inject some life into the match. To their credit, the Impact started to come on in the subsequent stages of the half. Their first real chance came in the 23rd minute through a point-blank first-time effort from Felipe Martins, but DeMerit’s sliding block saved the day.
It seemed Vancouver’s fortunes had turned late in the first half. This time, the referee pointed to their own penalty spot after Jun Marques Davidson’s goal-line block on a Patrice Bernier half-volley was deemed to be a handball.
In an unexpected turn of events, the referee overturned his call upon consultation with his assistant, however, as Rennie and his troops collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
Although Montreal controlled possession in the opening 45 minutes, Vancouver still manufactured a pair of glorious chances and Reo-Coker was influential in both.
Moments before the controversial decision, the Englishman delivered a perfect curling free kick into the Impact box and Mitchell got on the end of it but his header rung agonizingly off the crossbar.
Reo-Coker created another opportunity just before the break with a low cross from the right flank, but Heinemann couldn’t convert as the ‘Caps entered the break with a one-goal advantage.
A frantic start to the second half saw both teams come within inches of finding the back of the net.
From the 47th minute, when Reo-Coker hit the woodwork with a strike from the top of the box, there wasn’t much of a lull in action at Stade Saputo.
Vancouver nearly doubled their lead in the 51st minute when a nifty build-up play from Heinemann and Reo-Coker left Miller all alone in the Impact box, but the Scotsman’s left-footed effort sailed over the goal.
The Impact had a fair share of their own opportunities. MLS leading goalscorer Marco Di Vaio had a pair of quality strikes, but Ousted was up to the task on both occasions. This was the third straight match Vancouver has kept Di Vaio off the scoresheet.
Montreal also hit the woodwork twice – first through a stunning scissor-kick volley from Felipe and then after Ousted got his fingertips on a blistering strike from Bernier in the 65th minute.
The Danish shot-stopper also foiled two late opportunities from substitute Daniele Paponi, before Camilo made his mark in the dying stages of the match.
After replacing Miller at the hour-mark, the Brazilian striker gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead in the 89th minute and sealed the deal with a brilliant strike from the top of the box in stoppage time.
In the end, the ‘Caps walked away from Stade Saputo with a gutsy 3-0 road victory and an important three points.
Saturday’s contest concluded a three-match road swing for Whitecaps FC, in which they posted a 1W-1L-1D record. The Blue and White are back at BC Place next Saturday, September 28 for an important Western Conference tilt with Real Salt Lake.
MATCH DETAILSBudweiser Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
7' - VAN - Kenny Miller (penalty kick)
89' - VAN - Camilo (Young-Pyo Lee)
90'+1 - VAN - Camilo (Carlyle Mitchell)
Shots: Montreal 18 - Vancouver 14
Shots on Goal: Montreal 6 - Vancouver 4
Fouls: Montreal 10 - Vancouver 16
Offsides: Montreal 3 - Vancouver 1
Corners: Montreal 4 - Vancouver 1
45'+1 - MTL - Felipe Martins
54' - MTL - Hassoun Camara
77' - VAN - Nigel Reo-Coker
78' - VAN - Young-Pyo Lee
90' - VAN - Camilo Sanvezzo
1.Troy Perkins; 5.Jeb Brovsky, 13.Matteo Ferrari, 14.Alessandro Nesta, 6.Hassoun Camara; 22.Davy Arnaud © (35.Daniele Paponi 71'), 8.Patrice Bernier; 15.Andres Romero (33.Andrew Wenger 63'), 7.Felipe Martins (19.Blake Smith 81'), 21.Justin Mapp; 9.Marco Di Vaio
Substitutes not used: 30.Evan Bush, 18.Collen Warner, 31.Andrea Pisanu, 55.Wandrille Lefèvre
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
22.David Ousted; 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 24.Carlyle Mitchell, 6.Jay DeMerit ©, 2.Jordan Harvey; 13.Nigel Reo-Coker (14.Daigo Kobayashi 90'+4), 27.Jun Marques Davidson, 28.Gershon Koffie; 9.Kenny Miller (7.Camilo Sanvezzo 60'), 29.Tommy Heinemann (31.Russell Teibert 66'), 8.Matt Watson
Substitutes not used: 18.Brad Knighton, 11.Darren Mattocks, 16.Johnny Leveron, 40.Andy O’Brien